God turns a late season violent storm into a ministry opportunity

By December 16, 2010

USA (MNN)  — "Who would have thought
that 31 panels out of our greenhouse would have brought people's interest in
the poinsettia sale, but it did," says  Dr. Bill Amstutz, president of Shepherds Ministries,
the parent ministry of Shepherds College.  

What Amstutz is referring to is the rare late season storm that powered
through Union Grove, Wisconsin Thanksgiving week, producing an EF-1 tornado,
with winds between 86 to 100 mph.    

Although there weren't injuries reported, the tornado did enough damage to
prompt Racine County officials to declare a state of emergency in case disaster relief was needed.

On November 22, when the sirens sounded, the staff quickly got the student
body to safety in the shelters. After the twister went through, Amstutz and
other staff members emerged to see debris all over the campus. "We realized
that we'd been hit pretty badly. We began
to take an assessment, but before we could even do much of anything, we were
cleared from the main building because we had a gas leak."

The Grinch came close to stealing Christmas, too. The Nov. 22 tornado broke
31 panels in the college's greenhouses, which endangered the 1,000 poinsettias the
horticulture students were raising for the school's annual fundraising sale.

Then the media got wind of what happened. They picked up the story not only because of the damage, but also
because the college provides residential facilities, a biblical education, and
job opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities.

When they began broadcasting the story, the phones started ringing. Amstutz says the community responded. "They
were very concerned about our poinsettia sale." A majority of the
plants were saved by the quick action of the residents.

"What happens is that we have a poinsettia
sale, and we are probably are going to triple that sale as a result of this [emergency],"
Amstutz says.

Now, the greenhouse at Shepherds College is fixed. However, Amstutz says there's
still a long road ahead. The roofs will
wait until it's warmer. For now, the
damaged buildings are tarped. "The property damage is upwards of
$350,000. That doesn't include some of the
things that were not insured such as bikes and some of the sheds and

The best part of this story is opportunity. Radio stations, television stations, and newspapers came to cover the
story, which gave Amstutz a clear opportunity to talk about why they exist. "I
had the opportunity to share what our philosophy is: to reach this population
and their families for Christ and to also allow them to reach their full
God-given potential."

The higher sales volume also meant more contact points with the community. "Because
we are a mission agency to reach this population for Christ and their families,
we can do the same as we spread the true meaning of Christmas, through
decorating of churches, and that whole poinsettia sale." Click here for more details on Shepherds

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